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Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab sector passes audit

Snow crab pots on the wharf at Jerseyside in Placentia this spring. The Marine Stewardship Council has re-certified the province’s snow crab fishery as a sustainable and well-managed resource.
Snow crab pots on the wharf at Jerseyside in Placentia this spring. The Marine Stewardship Council has re-certified the province’s snow crab fishery as a sustainable and well-managed resource. - Glen Whiffen

Marine Stewardship Council renews certification

Despite the drop in the total allowable catch (TAC) that caused concern in this year’s snow crab fishery in the province, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has recertified the fishery following a reassessment audit.

The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization that rewards efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies. Being certified by the MSC elevates a fishery and its products in the eyes of buyers and consumers because it assures that products carrying the MSC blue label come from sustainable, well-managed fisheries.

The Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab trap fishery was first certified in April 2013 in relation to a bid by the Association of Seafood Producers in the province.

“A rigorous reassessment of the MSC principles and criteria was undertaken by the assessment team,” stated the MSC report released on Tuesday.

“On completion of the reassessment and scoring process, the assessment team has recommended that the Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab trap fishery is eligible to be recertified.”

The report notes the reassessment focused on the stock status and any changes in the management regime, or regulations and legislation put in place since the initial certification.

In April of this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) set the 2018 TAC for snow crab in the Newfoundland and Labrador region at 28,975 tonnes — a decrease of about 17 per cent from 2017, which followed a stock status report that found the numbers of crab were down.

The TAC reduction was a particularly hard blow to the west and southwest coasts of the province (divisions 4R and 3Pn), which saw a 50 per cent reduction to quota. There was a 24 per cent decrease in Division 3LNO off the east coast and southeast coast (30 per cent in the areas outside of the 200-mile limit, and 24 per cent in areas inside the 200-mile limit).

Many fish harvesters were devastated by the cuts.

Things were a little better in division 3Ps along the province’s south coast, which saw the quota increase by 19 per cent — good news for a division that saw the overall fishery struggle in recent years.

The initial price for snow crab per pound was set at $4.55 this year.

While the snow crab fishery scored a passing grade in tests complying with MSC principles, the report did outline particular strengths and weaknesses.

The strengths include:

• The status of the stock is well understood and measures are in place to protect the reproductive capacity of the stock;

• The harvest strategy has effectively responded to the state of the stock and meets management objectives;

• Available information suggests snow crab fishing has minimal impact on the habitat or ecosystem;

• There are comprehensive and effective monitoring and surveillance systems in place.

The weaknesses include:

• There are no well-defined reference points for the stock in place;

• There are no well-defined harvest control rules in place;

• There is no evidence that measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale population are highly likely to be within national and/or international standards.

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